14 April 2013


Pippa & Tina - last few days

Wednesday 10th April
You will not be surprised that Tina and I had a bit of a lie-in and did not go out until about 10.30am! 
On our way to drop off more letter forms I bought a packet of ‘bitter tomato’ seeds, as I have been unable to find them in UK. ‘Bitter tomatoes’ are often served in Gambian compounds and are really delicious.  (Having bought the packet, I found it was labelled ‘African aubergines’, so maybe they are available here after all.)
We gave out several letter forms, went to discuss some business plans with a sponsored young woman, took some books into SOS SSS and had a discussion with the Principal there before returning to the hotel for a meeting with three Pageant-sponsored University students.  Alan, Paula, Charlotte and Joe all came to chat with the three students and I am not sure who enjoyed it most!
Tina and I then went down to Billy’s for dinner – my last ladyfish of the trip.  Lovely food, as ever…
We then packed several boxes with materials that we wish to leave in The Gambia for future visits – to be left with Linda in her store-room.

Thursday 11th April
A couple of students came to see us just after breakfast, so Tina, Charlotte and I set off at about 9.30am.  First stop NARI in Brikama to buy some Artemisia Annua plants – this time we bought a whole tray of seedlings, to see if some of our established gardeners can cope with the plants in this form.  Then into Gambia College to deliver some English books for the trainee teachers – I met the College Principal, who said she hoped we would be back to do more Science Workshops next year!
Our next visit was to Humanity Nursery – this was to show Charlotte the school, as she had raised a considerable amount of sponsorship for a project there, but had not seen the school herself.  Holiday time, so classes were not running, but it made it easy to look round the school buildings themselves and to see the roof that needs to be replaced before the rainy season.  Having decided that she would indeed be happy for the money to be used in this way, we called into GTTI so that she could personally hand the money over to Faks (who was working with his students even though it was a holiday!)
Back to the hotel, a quick shower and change before going over to Linda’s to sort out boxes and money!  This always takes much longer than expected, but we must be getting better at it, as we made it to ‘La Romantica’ on the Senegambia strip at the agreed time of 7.30pm for our last dinner of the trip. 
We were a good crowd – Tina, Linda and I, Alan, Paula, Charlotte, Chris, Joe and Kerris plus Abdoulie, Wandifa, Momodou and Sainey.  Musa, Sainey’s brother, is the ‘La Romantica’ chef and the food was, as ever, delicious – as Kerris said, it seems strange to say that a Gambian has cooked some of the best Italian food one has ever eaten, but it is true!
A great evening… then back to the hotel for the last time this trip.

Friday 12th April
Last breakfast, packing, goodbyes to all the staff, handing over the last bits and pieces to Ann and Brian… then off to the airport (via Billy’s for a last drink and Linda’s to leave a last box and the remaining dalasis).
Checked in – all went OK, although the guy at the desk tried to charge me for extra baggage.  (I forgot to tell you that Wandifa gave me a most AMAZING present – a full-size ballophone!  I was so thrilled, even though he really should not have done it….)  Anyway, Baba at the hotel had packed it up for me for travel in the hold of the plane, we had weighed it and the other two cases and we were, maybe, 1Kg over our allotted baggage allowance.  The airport scales, however, said we were 4Kg over - but when I said we had weighed it at the hotel there was no further problem.
Last drink with Wandifa, Abdoulie and Yankuba, (who managed to get a break from work to come and see us off).  Last hugs….  Thank you all so much, our wonderful Gambian Pageant team, take care of yourselves.

On the up side – we were airborne 10 minutes before our departure time and we arrived at Gatwick nearly one hour early!  Our luggage all arrived OK and the ballophone was undamaged… and it is not THAT cold!


Pippa & Tina catching up... Tuesday 9th April

The alarm went off at 5.15am (!), Abdoulie, Wandifa & Yankuba arrived on time at 5.45am, we loaded up the minibus, collected our packed breakfasts from the hotel kitchen and were off just after 6am – amazing!!
After a good journey (just a short stop at Soma to buy bananas and stretch our legs) we arrived at Jarreng just after 10am – the road improvements have certainly made the journey a lot quicker (only about 30Km is not tarmacked now).  We were made very welcome by Yankuba’s grandmother, Mariama, in her compound and a host of Pageant-sponsored students, ladies hoping for a mosquito net and members of a senior boys’ football team began to arrive.
Wandifa and I gave out individual payments to the sponsored children and their parents while Yankuba distributed contents of packages of clothing and bedding to the families.  
 Then it was time for the mosquito nets – these are always the most prized gifts and competition for them was intense!  Charlotte and Yankuba did a magnificent job of the distribution of 27 nets - there were a lot of smiling faces and ‘Abarake’ (thank-you) was heard from all sides.   
The last donation was a set of football kit for the senior boys’ team, who had been waiting patiently all this time – the lads all put the shirts on immediately for a team photo (we decided that the shorts would be too difficult in the confined space in the compound) and when we presented them with a football as well their joy was complete.  Our grateful thanks to Helen for the football kit – we hope that you and the donors like the photo.

After a delicious lunch of bread, fish (sadly, no-one could tell us what the fish was called) and sauce and a lot of hugs all round we set off back the way we had come – next stop was Wandifa’s home village of Kanikunda, which is near Soma.  Here, we had more clothes to distribute as well as the remaining 27 nets – once more received with huge gratitude and enthusiasm.   

Tina and Charlotte kept the children enthralled with songs and bubbles while Wandifa was distributing the nets, and were really impressed with how well the children listened and responded to the songs.  Joe was adopted by a little boy who remained practically glued to his side the whole time we were there!  We also gave out several pairs of (non-prescription) reading glasses to some of the older men, as they had asked for these on a previous occasion.
Back into the by now EXTREMELY hot minibus for the homeward journey.  This was punctuated by a few stops:
to give out letter forms to children living along the road,
to take photos of a couple of very good students who are requesting sponsorship
and a short refreshment stop at Tendaba camp to show Charlotte and Joe the beautiful riverside scenery of that part of the country.
We eventually arrived back at the hotel just before 9.30pm – a long day, but we were delighted to have achieved so much without the need for an overnight stay, such as we have had to make in previous years.
Tina and I collapsed, very dirty, into a dark corner of the restaurant, where Bakary brought us a huge bowl of very welcome soup.  Charlotte and Joe did the same… and then we all decided on a shower and bed…..


Pippa & Tina catching up... Monday 8th April:

Sorry for the lack of a daily update after Dan, Frances, Lauren and Rachel went home – Tina and I arrived back on Friday evening, so I will fill in our last few days now:
Before doing the ‘airport run’ we went to RVTH (hospital in Banjul) with Modou Lamin to check on the refitting of his prosthetic leg, which went well.  However, we found that the original fittings sent for him from UK have mysteriously disappeared, so we are investigating how we might source some more.  If we do, they will be kept under lock and key until needed if they do not fit him when they arrive.
Then to Albert Market to buy 54 large family size mosquito nets (Gift Token donations) to take up-country on the following day. They were packed into 3 huge sacks for transporting on the roof rack of the minibus.
Off to the airport and sadly waved goodbye to the younger members of the team – then back through Abuko, where we collected Karamba for the very exciting purchase of a bicycle!  This was an 18th birthday present from his sponsor and he could hardly contain himself for excitement.  The now expert bicycle-buying duo of Wandifa and Abdoulie tried three different shops before finding something to their liking – I think Karamba was beginning to think that he would NEVER get his gift!  However, eventually the purchase was made, together with a padlock and chain to keep it safe, and a beaming Karamba pedalled off home.
Back to the hotel, where a whole load of Pageant reinforcements had arrived – Ann & Brian, plus Alan & Paula with Charlotte, Chris, Joe and Kerris.  After a lot of discussion (and a few Julbrews) Charlotte and Joe decided that they would like to come with us the following day, even though it meant setting out at 6am on their very first morning!!

07 April 2013


Day 5 and 6 - last few days.

Saturday began with a relaxing lounge by the pool, as it was street cleaning day and no cars were allowed on the road until 1pm. On the way to Manneh's compound we looked for evidence of the cleaning, but found none! On route we called in to collect a variety of parcels from Yankuba and admire his room! At the Manneh's we were treated to an amazing feast of Benechin, rice and beef with eggs and tomato. They were very pleased to receive some donated designer t-shirts and as it was Adama's birthday, he was given a football! It was really lovely to see them all looking so well and to hear all about their plans for the future.

After some heart stopping reversing (Abdoulie at his best!) we headed back for a quick change before going to Senegambia to celebrate Wandifa's upcoming birthday. It was a very 'wow' evening! Wandifa smiled from ear to ear, particularly when the lights went out and a special slice of cake appeared including a sparkler! We then cracked out the party blowers which proved a huge hit!

Sunday began with an expedition to Jambanjelly! We arrived to a fantastic welcome of dancing and singing, lead by Nuha who is sponsored by Dan. We joined in with some dancing (video to follow!) and songs including a brilliant rendition of the Hokey Cokey! We played parachute games and were very impressed with the discipline of all the children. Leaving Dan and Rachel in charge of the bean bag, balloon and skipping games, we headed to see Jambanjelly women's group, to find out how they were doing with their PAGEANT loan. We were delighted to find that they were on their third set of six ladies and that about half of the previous ladies were still trading. Lauren and I entertained the children with bouncy balls and a conga line!

We returned to the first compound where Rachel and Dan were in the middle of a game of Grandmother's Footsteps. Having scooped them up, we waved goodbye and headed to Gunjur to deliver lots of PAGEANT letter forms and take more photos of students. We returned to the hotel in time for a game of water basket before entertaining Haddy, Isha, Alhagie and Mama who had been brought to the hotel by their dad to see us. We did some drawing whilst having a drink and then played a round of crazy golf! They played on the swings and slide before going home clutching more gifts. We had a slightly hysterical evening back at the hotel of wild music and intermittent food!!!

The youth of the party are preparing to leave tomorrow :( whilst Pippa and Tina are gearing up for a long day traveling up country to Jarreng (there and back in one day!!)

We promise to add more photos when we return home but for now goodnight! X x x

05 April 2013


Day 4 - compound day!

This morning we treated ourselves to a lie in, having breakfast at a whopping 8:30 before packing our bags with lots of goodies to take with us to compounds. First stop was Abdoulie's where we got to meet the gorgeous new arrival, Mustapha! After lots of cuddles we explored his mother's garden. We were really impressed with the amazing array and size of cabbages, sweet potato, beans, onions, tomatoes, bitter tomatoes, aubergine and lettuces. What a fabulous garden! Abdoulie has built an impressive extension on the side of his house, as well as decorating on the inside. It all looks great! We had some shirts to give to Wandifa and Abdoulie who put them on straight away! Big shout out to Malcolm - they looked really smart and it definitely made their day! Wandifa has been calling himself 'topman' all day!!

We drove on to Wandifa's compound where we were greeted by lots of smiling children! We gave our sponsored children some gifts which were greatly received. Mo Lamin was particularly pleased with his new cycle helmet to accompany his bike he has been bought as a reward for his hard work at school. We entertained the children with bubbles, balloons and parachute games before taking the older ones to play rounders at the lorry park (a large sandy area). The children impressed us with their batting and throwing skills and enjoyed being introduced to a new game. On the way back to the compound, the children sang us some lovely songs which they had been taught by the CH boys in February. We were treated to a delicious beef domada (peanut sauce) before reading the children some stories and giving out lucky dip toys. We regretfully said our goodbyes and made our way back to the hotel. We are just off to dinner and hopefully will be awake enough to play cards afterwards!

04 April 2013


Day 3 - treat day!

Evening all!

Today we treated 11 of our sponsored children to an exciting day out including going shopping in the market and eating lunch at Billy's. We started in Albert market where we gave the children each some money to spend on whatever they wanted. They bought an impressive array of shoes, socks, dresses, skirts, jeans, shorts and more! We managed some PAGEANT shopping as well, choosing some lovely wooden animals, sand paintings and keyrings to bring back from the craft market.

After the market we walked to Billy's restaurant where all the children tucked in to chicken and chips followed by ice cream! For some this was their first time ever visiting Banjul (the capital city) and for one boy, his first time seeing the sea! After dinner we played some brilliant games including rounders, football and frisbee! The boys said that their highlight was eating, whereas the girls said they enjoyed the shopping and games! We ended the day giving out presents for the children we aren't going to see again this trip. These were extremely popular and went down a treat!

Back at the hotel we had a drink with Modou Jeng, our university medic who is approaching the end of his third year, before enjoying a BBQ buffet by the pool! We are now half way through our trip... Hopefully some more exciting days to come! Tomorrow we are off visiting compounds, starting at Abdoulie's and then heading to Wandifa's! We are very excited to meet some new babies and all the children!

Ps sorry for the lack of photos from today... More will come soon! X x x
Note from Pippa:  I have been meaning to add some photos to this for some time - sorry for the delay, but here they are now...


Day 2!

Apologies for the late post... Yesterday was such a great day but we were shattered by the evening so sleep called! We started our day at Kings Kid Academy in Lamin Village with the nursery children. Like yesterday we started with team games and parachute fun! We were very impressed with the standard of English and the children's listening skills. This meant we could do more in the time and have more fun! Highlights included the bean bag race (after Dan's excellent frog run impression!) and the mushrooms with the parachute! One group even managed to play a game whilst underneath!

After the games Tina read a story under the shade of a mango tree whilst the team prepared the classrooms for messy art! The children loved the art and produced some beautiful collages and paintings. Wandifa had a ball too!! The children sang us their National Anthem followed by a medley of different songs. Some even sang solos! This was a great end to a brilliant morning.

Next stop was to Baba's compound, Wandifa's brother and his family. We took lots of games including skipping, bubbles, hopscotch and tennis balls which entertained the whole village! They treated us to a lovely lunch and it was great to spend time with such a lovely family. Unfortunately the goats were out in the field but their house is still going strong!

On our way back to the hotel we stopped at Gambia College to visit various students and give out more letter forms. We arrived back just in time for happy hour and then ventured to the Senegambia for some fun at African Queen. Alieu did not let us down with his super service. He had even prepared a huge table decoration of flowers for our table only! A great evening!

We are looking forward to meeting lots of our sponsored children today! We are asking them shopping in the market, followed by lunch and games at Billy's. there may even be chance for a swim in the sea later!

Lots of love x x X.

02 April 2013


First day!

Good evening all!

We have had a great day at Humanity Nursery! Despite it being school holidays, all the children turned up raring to go and were very pleased to see us! We started with lots of team games including over under with balloons and hoops, bean bag relays, skipping and 'Duck Duck Goose'. Then it was time for the parachute... What a success! I don't think I have ever seen so many smiles at once! We played lots of games which involved balls flying high, children running excitedly underneath and a fantastic 'mushroom' (where everyone sits underneath the parachute so it looks like a mushroom).

Next, Tina read 'Handa's Hen' with her trusty assistants Wandifa, Abdoulie, Yankuba and Pippa! The children listened carefully and were fascinated by the toy chicks (which, much to Yankuba's delight, chirped when pressed!). Meanwhile, the rest of the PAGEANT team prepared the classroom for some art. The younger nursery children enjoyed sponge painting shapes (and themselves!!) while the older children collaged shapes and numbers with tissue paper, feathers, sequins, materials and cellophane to compliment the story of Handa's Hen. On the way home we visited several compounds to deliver more PAGEANT sponsor letter forms (we have delivered 152 letter so far!)

We had time for a quick swim and relax before a huge dinner at Billy's. Now, it is back to sorting ready for our next school visit tomorrow.... That's if we survive our recent ordeal of being sprayed by the mosquito man!!

Love to all at home! X x x

01 April 2013


We have arrived!

We have arrived in The Gambia! We have already had a swim and dinner and now are preparing for our first nursery school adventure tomorrow! Much to the amusement of the other guests and security guards, we had a quick practise with the parachute outside and are now busily packing art, sports and games resources ready to take with us! We are off to Humanity Nursery School armed with art activities, team games and stories to entertain the children (and teachers!!). But first for some well earned sleep!

Good night! X x x